Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dunwoody High School Roundabout

The City of Dunwoody held an informational meeting at Dunwoody High School on September 20th to discuss possible intersection improvements at Womack Rd and Vermack Road. Three options were presented, do nothing, install a signalized intersection with dedicated turn lanes or install a single lane roundabout.

City engineers are recommending the roundabout because the signalized intersection would have more impact on adjacent properties, cost more, and be less safe for travelers. The roundabout provides individual crossing locations with middle of the road refuge islands whereby the pedestrian only has to look one way at a time to cross the street therefore it is deemed the safest design for pedestrians. There is a lower average speed though the intersection as compared to a signal which means less severe crashes and with the constant circular movement it eliminates turning conflicts and therefore crashes.

I attended the September 20th meeting and talked to a number of people.  Some were immediate neighbors who lived on Womack or Vermack, some were Dunwoody High School Parents who were in the building for Senior Night and poked in to see what was up and others were general community people who wanted to be informed.  I listened to both Pro and Con but there was a consensus that the signalized intersection was overkill and completely out of character.  Then there were those who liked the roundabout but had individual concerns over a specific topic within the design and others who wanted no change what so ever to the intersection.  These folks believed that this improvement would do little for Dunwoody residents and would only increase the Gwinnettians cut through traffic to Perimeter Center.

Since I attended the meeting to see the possible designs for the first time, I too walked into the door with concerns and my main one was pedestrian safety in a roundabout.  How would it work and how would an influx of pedestrians at one time be able to safely cross the streets?  If there was an influx of pedestrians (say a intermittent stream for 20 minutes), how would that affect the traffic flow of the intersection?  Could a parent rightfully allow an older elementary student to use this intersection to walk to school?  Could my slow walking elderly neighbor or someone in a wheelchair safely use this civic improvement intended for all?

After reviewing the refuge island designs, I had a better feel for the safety of some pedestrians but the system is still completely reliant on the fact that all drivers must "Yield to Pedestrians".  This week a resident forwarded a letter to the City with concerns in the design and asked us to go back to the drawing table but in doing so she also forwarded us wonderful research on pedestrian safety in roundabouts

Intersections need to be made not just for cars, but for people on a personal scale (including children, elderly and those in a wheelchair).  I had a long conversation with our Public Works Director who is now researching what added safety devices (be it Flashing Yellow beacons or in-pavement flashers or a combination of the two activated by a pedestrian push button, raised or bricked crosswalks; or just improved markings) which could be included in the final roundabout design up for consideration.  I believe that new city infrastructure should always foster improved walkablity for all residents and at the very least we should strive to never be a hinderent to our own mobility so that may we all age in place to enjoy this wonderful community.

At the meeting the participants were told that the Womack entrance (Western driveway near intersection) to Dunwoody High School would be closed and the traffic flow onto and off that parking lot would have to change.  I talked to both Dunwoody High parents as well as Womack residents who live adjacent to the current exit out of that parking lot, both of whom saw this as the biggest obstacle to having a safe intersection design as this change is directly related.

For your information the City is exploring various options and I believe they are presenting preliminary plans at the next City Council meeting (moved off the regular date) on October 15th.  I look forward to seeing an updated, pedestrian friendly roundabout design while also working with the DeKalb County School System where we can adequately find a solution to serving the school safely too.

The City is still taking public comment on this intersection so please give us suggestions.  Give us feedback if you love it, hate it, or if you believe we shouldn't do it at all.




Pattie Baker said...

John: Thank you for always considering the full range of pedestrians. Also, most people don't realize that according to Code Section 40-6-91 of Georgia State Law, failure to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk is a misdemeanor, which is a criminal offense. In all my years of walking and biking to school with my children, I never once saw a police officer give a driver a ticket for this. On average, I found it took about 21 cars before one would stop at a clearly-marked crosswalk (Mt. Vernon at Stratham) as required by law so that we could cross. Perhaps things have improved since I wrote about this years ago:

Dunwoody Dad said...

Thanks for the additional info, John. I do look forward to seeing the city consider an intersection that takes both vehicular traffic and pedestrian traffic into account, particularly since both are "high volume" at the same times of the day (the start and end of school). I know Roswell recently installed a roundabout and wondered if the City talked with them about the pros and cons. I also believe Marietta is installing one (or may have already by this point).

I also concur with Pattie's comment on the failure of cars to yield to pedestrians at a crosswalk - I've seen it myself many times. That is one reason why (in my opinion) relying on a yield sign at a roundabout will not work. Perhaps a signalized crosswalk (push button activated red-yellow-green) and lowering the speed limit to 30 (or less) would help as well.

Unknown said...

I'm with Pattie and Dunwoody Dad. It seems that drivers have forgotten that pedestrians have the right of way at crosswalks.

Wise Acre said...

Here's the situation as I see it -

Motorized vehicle operators need to be aware that a pedestrian always has the ethical and the Lord's own ethereal right of way and you must avoid hitting them.

A driver is obligated to stop when the pedestrian begins to enter the crosswalk.

Cyclists must also yield to pedestrians even when a pedestrian has ventured into a bicycle lane. The cyclist may not hit the pedestrian out of self-righteous spite.

Cyclists must ride single-file and may not ride two, three, four, etc. abreast blocking traffic as they commonly do on Womack in the early morning hours when I am driving home from work.

When walking on the side of a road, pedestrians must walk on the left hand side of the road facing approaching traffic unless there is an obstruction on the left side. But ultimately the rights of pedestrians must always be respected!

Now to the subject of the "roundabout" - this is a waste of the city's money and once completed will only incur multiple accidents. Most Dunwoody residents are lifelong suburbanites and thrive on an "it's all about me" mindset, which includes that arriving at their destination on-time is the most important event in the world, and this type of attitude is not well suited to handle the "give-and-take" urban courtesies required for safely navigating round a "roundabout".

John Heneghan said...

Thanks to those who post public comments as it gives the broader community a little glimmer into what my email inbox shows. Since I received a few comments via email, I figured would post a few snipits. Some were sent directly to me and others copied public works and or other neighbors.

"I've lived in Village Mill (around the corner from Vermack / Womack) for the last 33 years. I, as well as my children, now Grandchildren, use this intersection on almost a daily basis. Knowing for quite a long time that something had to be done with the intersection my first thought was that roundabout would not be a good idea. This thinking was based almost totally on the safety of people crossing and what was once civil driving habits by the residence of Dunwoody, to where we are today. Whoever can beat the other out at the four way stop is the winner. After seeing the rendering that was sent by our Councilman Mr. Heneghan I realize that the traffic flow would be considerable enhanced and the length of the crossing area would be much shorter than I envisioned. Hence, I now tend to agree that the roundabout is the way to go. My daughter lives up in Cape Code and I've seen 1st hand how effective the use of roundabout's can be once people understand how it works. The education of both drivers and pedestrians will be nonetheless a challenge however, I feel given time this can work effectively. Bottom line.... I'm in favor of the roundabout but feel empathy for the homeowners who live on the three corners in question. Also, I think a lot more people would favor this approach given the visual view of your intended design. Thanks for listening to me...."

"Thanks for the information on the roundabout. Not sure my final opinion on it but think I like it just the way it is…. It’s only a problem in the morning and afternoon and only for 30 minutes then!"

"I think a roundabout is an excellent idea for this "busy" intersection at my old high school; however, in a roundabout model, pedestrians wanting to cross the street often encounter a non-stop stream or flow of cars that do not yield to pedestrians. Assuring a way pedestrians can cross the street safely on approach is of greater importance to make this plan work for everyone! Thanks for request for comment !!"

"Hi John, As I drove through this intersection yesterday, at 8 AM, I realized that a Roundabout is just what is needed there to improve the traffic flow. This diagram is just perfect. I am all for it!"

"If done well, the roundabout can improve pedestrian and vehicular safety. Check out this link about aging in place -"

"I really appreciate you trying to make this intersection as safe as it can be for our children and all the walkers! I look forward to seeing the updated design drawing too."

GaryRayBetz said...

It was said that the cinder block scar on the back of my skull,
Is why I can't stop with the pills and the liquor.

So wear a helmet when you motorcycle
And an indifferent heart when you love.

Wise Acre said...

It really appears as though the city of Dunwoody has only accommodated those persons with alarm systems and bicyclists.

First, those folks equipped alarm systems that are consistently triggered inadvertently, they DO need to be fined if they cannot fix the problem after a third false alarm.

The rest of us taxpayers don't need to be paying taxes for police resources in order for the cops to support irresponsible and inconsiderate homeowners and businesses. Having chosen the canine home security option, if my dog barks excessively, you better damn'd well believe I'm going to get a ticket!

Next, thus far it appears that the number ONE concern of the mayor and city council, aside from seeing who can chug the most growlers of bock and dunklen weizen beer in one sitting, is kissing the fine shapely asses of the city's bicyclists. Every freaking time I turn around there is another bike lane accommodating them even to the extent of removing over fifty mature deciduous trees as well as converting two lanes of automobile traffic into bicycle paths!

If all the city's legislation is going to be nothing more than embracing the taut butts of bicyclists, why don't cyclists have to buy insurance and tags to use the roads like we do? Fair tax, baby, fair tax! What if a bicyclist hits a pedestrian? Shouldn't they be obligated to purchase liability insurance? Or does the poor pedestrian have to sue the cyclist in order to pay the medical bills, but is out of luck if the cyclist is destitute?

Daughter of the Poet said...

The Old Gentleman

If you want to ask
a question, the chairman said,
begin by giving us
your name and address.

So the old gentleman
seated near the back
of the auditorium,
when it came his turn, said
he was Louis St. Laurent
and came from Quebec;

and we all of us laughed:
because that's who he was
and it was the kind of little joke
one expected of an elderly
former prime minister;

but the next time
he said the same thing

and the time after that,
said it quite simply

and it became obvious
it wasn't meant to be funny,

wasn't meant to be anything
other than courteous,

like his holding open the door
for whoever happened to reach it
at the same time he did

and never lighting a cigarette
without offering the pack to
the person in front and the person behind
and the persons seated
on either side of him.

- Alden Nowlan

Joe Seconder said...

See the below link that Roswell setup for information on Roundabouts. They installed their first last year and are planning a second. I think they spent nearly a year in education, outreach and various public meetings before they approved & finalized the design. But even today, they state, there are ..." two distinct issues have emerged and they are both related to driver behavior: the failure to yield upon entering the roundabout and the failure to stop for pedestrians while entering or exiting the roundabout.

Daughter of the Poet said...

"Smoke Break Behind the Treatment Center"

End of the third week: family weekend.
The smokers, most of the patients, are more

jittery than usual, more anxious just now
than other days to step out this door behind

the cafeteria, where they can look across
to the stubble field, world of chopped-off stalks

that has ripped them up, that they've needed
too much from. In fifteen minutes they'll see

the ones who've come to find out if
they are changing. Maybe half have family

visiting; fewer than that will leave in another
week without needing to come back, to stand

here in a different season and stare at the silo
you set yourself by, imagine walking through

your own cloud of smoke to clean blank sky.

- Debra Nystrom